LIVINGSTON COUNTY – While our valley does look beautiful in a coat of snow, homes can be put at significant risk by our best efforts to batten down the hatches and survive winter’s not-so convenient freezing temperatures.
Within the past week, two Livingston County families have been displaced by fires caused by heating devices, and according to Andrew Chanler, volunteer firefighter and insurance agent with Chanler Insurance, many, many others have suffered steep financial losses due to smoke, water, or carbon monoxide damage or danger stemming from winter weather equipment.
“What often happens is the auger in a pellet stove clogs and the fire travels into the main chamber of pellets, then you have an uncontrolled fire,” said Chanler. “Heating with wood or pellets requires more maintenance than conventional heat system.”
Chanler cited there are approximately 374,000 residential fires each year in the United States, and cooking and home-heating are responsible for 72% of those fires, which even if quickly put out can wreak havoc on the homeowner’s insurance.
“After a loss, it is difficult to prepare a client for the time and energy it takes to financially recover,” said Chanler. “Some clients have to make inventories of every item in their house, while finding a place to live while their home is damaged. It is very difficult to prepare for the mental stress of filing a claim.”
Chanler added that it can be tough for firefighters to get to scenes in poor driving conditions due to snow and ice, and water and ice damage from firefighters’ hoses in the winter can potentially be more damaging than the fire.
Chanler said that homeowners should most importantly be sure to check and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and that homeowners properly maintain home heating devices.
Chanler also recommends that homeowners always attend to wood or pellet stoves, and consider installing a device that can alert you, first responders or neighbors in the event of smoke, carbon monoxide, or a sudden drop in temperature, which can result in burst water pipes and terrible water damage.
Conesus Lake residents, as well as the North Shore Grill, fell victim to frozen pipes in late January.
Chanler added that a neat new home monitoring device, the Winter Watchman by Honeywell, can alert your neighbors if something goes wrong. The device costs $20 at any major home or hardware store, and can turn on an attached lamp when your home reaches a low temperature setting, alerting neighbors that there is a problem when they drive by before the pipes can freeze.
PHOTO CAPTION: Monday’s fire, which destroyed this home in Mount Morris. (Photo/Conrad Baker)